Watch Quixel and SideFX explain how they developed the photorealistic real-time cinematic Rebirth

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Watch Quixel and SideFX explain how they developed the photorealistic real-time cinematic Rebirth


To break down how the photorealistic real-time cinematic Rebirth was made with UE4, we recently invited representatives from Quixel and SideFX to elaborate on how they produced the groundbreaking short.





In the first of two livestreams, embedded above, Quixel’s Head of Evangelism Galen Davis came to Epic HQ and gave viewers a high-level overview of Quixel’s Megascans library, which represents the largest photogrammetry scan library on the internet. 

In Davis’ presentation, he delves into how they developed the movie-like trailer. He explains how the team visited and captured photogrammetry of Iceland back in June of 2018. The subsequent month, they got the idea to use what they captured to create Rebirth. The company began working hard on the project in late August of 2018, which lead to the launch of the cinematic short at GDC the following March. This represents a quick turnaround for the project, especially when you consider the quality of execution. 

While Rebirth looks stunning, the demo was actually built to be very performant. Despite running at smooth framerates, however, Davis asserted that the environment is completely 3D and that no billboarding shortcuts were used. 

In the presentation, he shows viewers how to use Quixel Bridge and Quixel Mixer. Specifically, Davis demonstrated how to construct gravel, how to build wet and dry sand, and how to import Quixel assets into UE4.  





In our second livestream, embedded above, we invited SideFX Technical Artist Paul Ambrosiussen and Games Community Manager Ben Mears. SideFX’s Houdini software was instrumental in helping Quixel develop Rebirth and the Toronto-based company stepped into help with the project from October to December of last year. 

For the uninitiated, Houdini is a procedural modeling, animation, effects and simulation rendering, and compositing package that was vital to Rebirth’s strict time constraints. 

In the livestream, Ambrosiussen shows off a variety of smart digital assets that feature modifiable attributes, which allows users to adjust their size and proportions. The SideFX Technical Artist delves into the studio’s contribution to Rebirth across five main categories, which include:

  • FX
  • Mesh processing
  • Terrain
  • Worldbuilding
  • Megastructure detailing

Delving into specifics, Ambrosiussen details how they designed the fog in Rebirth and talks about how they created the floating car. Along the way, he shows how fast baking is in Houdini. Ambrosiussen then delves into how they experimented with erosion and created foliage in Rebirth to get the look they were going for. 

Moving onto the big megastructure building featured in the short, the technical artist explains how Houdini provided essential procedural generation tools that minimized a lot of the manual time-intensive work that would normally be relegated to artists. 

Towards the end of the livestream, Ambrosiussen announced version 2 of the UE4 Houdini plugin. Version 2 will support Blueprints along with numerous improvements that include: 

  • HDA Presets, Parameters
    • Construction Script, Blutility
  • PGA Asset Link
    • Complex Dependencies
    • Distribute Async Cooking
  • UI & UX
    • Based on user feedback
      • Improved Parameter UI, Default Values, Expressions
      • Level Independent, World Composition
  • Performance
    • Faster Mesh Creation

You can read more about version 2’s improvements here. There is currently no exact release date for the plugin, but you should expect it to release before the end of the year. 

We hope you enjoyed these informative livestreams. If you’ve been inspired to create photoreal projects of your own, be sure to tag @UnrealEngine and #UE4 on Twitter to show us your work!